This project explores how autistic adults use social networking sites to maintain existing social relationships or create new ones. Understanding how autistic individuals use language, images, as well as different technological tools to communicate in social media is important for the design of environments that are inclusive of autistic peoples abilities and preferences. The project will help inform initiatives that use digital networking technologies to improve the quality of life of autistic adult.
The project is organised around four key strands of work: (1) observing online behaviour of a demographically diverse group of autistic Facebook and Twitter adult users; (2) conducting semi-structured interviews with autistic adults who use these social networking sites to explore individual motives and the social and digital norms that shape their interactions on such sites; (3) analyse and synthesize findings from these analyses through co-research autistic adults, where we will identify the enabling and inhibiting factors around the use of social networking sites for these individuals; and (4) co-design new functions, features and concepts for future social networking services that are inclusive of the communication and social needs of autistic users.
The overallaim of the project is to shape policy around the design of inclusive online environments – this includes working with large social media companies and autism advocacy groups to translate the findings of our research into practice.
The Autistic Adults Online project is funded by the ESRC, is led by Nelya Koteyko at Queen Mary, University of London, and is conducted in collaboration with Autistica. It runs from 2020 to 2023.